TAIPEI — Taiwan’s chief of general staff Gen. Yen Ming was named defense minister Wednesday following the resignation of his predecessor over plagiarism claims just six days after taking office.
Yen, 63, who has served a number of top positions in the armed forces including the air force chief, replaced scholar-turned-minister Andrew Yang who resigned on Tuesday, the cabinet said in a statement.
Yang served the shortest cabinet term in Taiwan’s history following his surprise resignation after an opposition legislator and a university instructor came forward to accuse him of plagiarism over an article published in a book in 2007.
They claimed that the article, an analysis on the People’s Liberation Army that had both Yang and a friend’s name on it, plagiarized material from a mainland Chinese magazine that was an translation of a foreign scholar’s work.
“I didn’t know that he (his friend) had plagiarized much from an article printed in a mainland magazine. This was my personal error. I want to apologize,” Yang told a press conference late Tuesday.
Yang said he told President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Jiang Yi-huah that he was resigning because “my personal error has undermined the government’s and the military’s honor when the government and the military are facing huge challenges.”
Observers said Yang’s resignation dealt another blow to the military, after his predecessor Kao Hua-chu was forced to resign last week amid mounting public outrage over the death of a young conscript in an alleged military abuse case. Yang was then promoted from deputy minister to replace Kao.
A total of 18 military officials have been indicted over Hung’s case after military prosecutors found that corporal Hung Chung-chiu, who died of heatstroke on July 4, had been subjected to “cruel and abusive” punishment in the form of excessive exercises.
Hung was sent to solitary confinement and ordered to do exercises for bringing a camera phone onto his army base and for defying some duty assignments. He was refused water by one superior during the punishment despite being close to collapse, according to the indictment.
His family said he had previously filed complaints about other abuse meted out by his superiors.
Yang, who did not come from Taiwan’s military ranks and was an academic before he joined the government, had won praise for his patient and humble approach to those protesting over Hung’s death.